We already reported at Avalanche of events redefining the balance of power in the Middle East that on 29 June 2015 Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem together with his deputy Faisal Al-Makdad and Buthaina Shaaban, who is a counsel for the Syrian President, met with Vladimir Putin, whosuggested the formation of a quadrilateral anti-terrorism coalition to be comprised of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan. Iran was excluded as the Russians were careful not to intimidate the Saudis. The Saudis insisted that the meeting should be held in Riyadh, and Damascus did not object. A few weeks later, a special plane carrying the deputy Russian Chief of Intelligence landed in Damascus and flew with Syrian Chief of Internal Security General Ali Mamluk on board bound for Riyadh. The meeting between Ali Mamluk and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Minister of Defence, was held in the presence of the Saudi Chief of Intelligence Saleh Al-Humaidan. Both parties lashed at each other accusing each other of inflaming the situation, but there is nothing to indicate that this was not done within the norms of diplomacy. The meeting concluded without reaching any results, but the ice has been broken and the significance of this extremely historic meeting is enormous. It has the potential to be pivotal in whatever happens from this point on. It is very important to note at least the following ramifications, corollaries and conclusions :1. It confirms that the original anti-Syrian coalition has capitulated.2. It is a recognition of Syria’s upper hand on the situation on the ground.3. It implies an admission of failure on the part of Saudi Arabia.4. It further reconfirms Russia’s role and commitment towards Syria.5. It is a further proof that the US is disengaging in the Levant.6. In trying to reach a deal between Saudi Arabia and Syria, the only remaining obstinate foe of Syria, Turkey, will be left out alone in the cold. In any future negotiations, Turkey will have to strike a deal of its own without the support of any partners to count on. This will prove very difficult if and when Turkey’s intended safety zone plan in the north of Syria fails.Read more details here.
Ghassan Kadi and Intibah Kadi have translated Nahed Hatter’s article into English which was published in Arabic on 5 August 2105 in Al Akhba. Hatter’s article describes the secret dialogue between US and Syrian Foreign Affairs diplomats about co-ordinating efforts to fight terrorism and resolving Kurdish issues:
Americans have agreed to widen their air strikes against terror organisations to include Al Nusra Front and its allies in addition to ISIS. This is considered as a political victory for Syria which had invariably faced the danger of America re-arming al Nusra Front and describing it as “moderate opposition”. With this, 80 per cent of anti-government forces become targeted in accordance to the American–Syrian agreement. This can be considered as the cornerstone for the new anti-terror coalition as suggested by Russia. As for the other fighters, the local ones, as well as those associated with the Western/GCC foreign intelligence, discussions are underway to make decisions about them. This includes merging some elements of the FSA with the Syrian Army and/or with the National Defence Forces.
Ironically, Washington is now closer to Damascus that it is to Ankara which has not yet severed its strong ties with terror organisations, and which continues to take advantage of the war on terror to hit the PKK, all the while its Syrian branch is an ally to both the Syrians and Americans. Turkish President Erdogan will soon have two choices; he will either have to join the anti-terror coalition by action, not just by words, or, he will lose his political cover to confront the PKK and face his destiny domestically.
The American announcement of securing air defence to “moderate opposition” is in reality aimed against Al Nusra, ISIS and Turkey and not against the Syrians. The wording of the declaration however, and which included the Syrian army in the list of targets, is simply for political consumption.
This analysis finds congruence with the ambiguous American endorsement of creating a “safety zone” in northern Syria. Was it really achieved and does it have any meaningful significance on the ground other than turning it into a compound which sorts out what to do with fighters who do not belong either to ISIS, al Nusra or any of its partners? Either way, any step in such a direction will not happen without consultation with the Syrians.
In the meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem received a formal invitation from his Omani counterpart Youssef bin Alawi to visit Muscat for bilateral discussions, leading up to a meeting between Mouallem and his Saudi counterpart, Adel Al-Jubeir. A trilateral meeting may also eventuate during this same visit.
The Omani initiative falls within the escalating sequence of events in pursuit of a resolution, the highlights of which have been clarified in the Russian – American – Saudi meeting in Doha (on Monday 3rd August 2015). It does not contradict, as a matter of fact it complements, the amended Iranian initiative that is being discussed by the Iranian – Russian – Syrian trio in Tehran, the launching of which may signal the end of war on Syria.
The new phase will have a bold agenda: fighting terrorism and exterminating fundamentalism, containing the Muslim Brotherhood, regional security, reducing geo-political and sectarian conflict, reaching resolutions on hot topics and, regional and international co-operation for reconstruction.
In brief, failure to isolate Iran and breaking Syria, Hezbollah and Houthis, together with the Bahraini struggle, has led to the acquiescence to a new regional, political structure that recognises Russian influence and regional interests as well as recognising Iran as a major regional power, not forgetting the Syrian Army and Hezbollah as they have been the major partner in combatting terrorist organisations and securing regional safety.
In Yemen, after the military breakthrough in Aden, Saudi Arabia and the UAE may declare victory and enter negotiations to reach a political resolution which in reality will mean a settlement between Riyadh and Houthis who will be recognised as a fundamental power in the Yemeni Republic. Whilst the Syrian and Yemeni files are being dealt with, the Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman, who is considered to be a major obstacle for reconciliation, may find that he has to resign. This will open the door for a resolution that is analogous to the Kuwaiti model.
The Deputy Crown Prince, Saudi Minister of Defence, Mohomed bin Salman, was quick to visit his Jordanian ally to tell him “game over!” War Rooms conducting the fight in southern Syria will be shut down and arrangements will be made to separate its military from political wings with the fighters that belong to Al Nusra front left without any protection.
Amman, which did not make any clear statements regarding the Iranian nuclear deal and what followed it in terms of repercussions, has received the green light to move forward with making settlements. The Jordanian government has got logistic, security and trade offers for Damascus. In return, Amman wishes to reach reconciliation and the ability to resolve the issue of Syrian refugees in Jordan. Syrian refugees are also a problem for Lebanon. It is worthy to note here that different Lebanese stakeholders, with the exception of Hezbollah, are excluded from the discussions and settlements.
Throughout all of these developments, it was interesting to see that Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, found the time and enough concern to meet with the Hamas Chief of the Politbureau, Khaled Meshaal, to write two letters, the first of which was addressed to the regional and international leaders, stating that Moscow is committed to the Palestinian cause which has been shelved since the beginning of the Arab Spring and, the second letter was addressed to Hamas, urging it to reconsider its position vis-à-vis the recent developments in the region, especially in Egypt.
Russia’s diplomatic efforts in Syria, Iran, and Yemen over the past few years have once more made the country a Mideast power, and amidst the Syrian stalemate and failed War on Yemen, Saudi Arabia might finally be thinking that it’s time for it to constructively reach out to Moscow outside the supervisory framework of the US… Russia needs Saudi Arabia to retreat from its deadly covert offensive on Syria in order for peace to return to its beleaguered ally (Syria), while the Saudis want Russian arms and nuclear technology both to grandstand in front of Iran (which they mistakenly view as their arch enemy) and make the US jealous so that they can squeeze more supportive concessions out of it. In Riyadh’s regional calculus, anything that it can do to seemingly elevate its position against Iran takes precedence over its interests against Syria… Read more here.
In addition to the developments causing radical shifts in power in the Middle East, there is also corresponding shift in world geopolitics as sources at European intelligence report about ongoing secret negotiations between Russian and US military, which reportedly focus on a political deal where NATO will reduce its anti-Russian activity in the Ukrainian direction in exchange for cooperation with Russia in the Middle East. – Read more about this here.
Ray Bergmann, editor, August 2015